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"When a spark comes online, there is great joy. When one is extinguished...the universe weeps."—Rhinox, Beast Wars
A character with a Heart Drive has an organ, crystal, crystal organ (so to speak) or actual hardware inside their body that contains the very self of the character. The Heart Drive is in this sense similar to a Soul Jar: it contains the character's Soul (or near enough that it makes no difference), and as long as it remains undamaged grants a measure of Immortality. Unlike a Soul Jar, as long as the Heart Drive is outside the body the character is essentially dead, though she might remain awake and unable to take action inside the Heart Drive. Some Heart Drives can even be casually removed, stored, and reinserted to the body... or simply a body... and return the character back to life as if nothing happened.
If this is sounding a lot like a computer's Hard Drive, that's because it usually is one to many robot characters. Sort of like a cybernetic equivalent to a Brain In a Jar. Thanks to their Heart Drive, most robots get can pull off Good Thing You Can Rebuild or just transfer to a Body Backup Drive. This is true for non-technology-based Heart Drives as well: characters whose intelligence is housed in a Heart Drive are also usually Made of Iron, able to shrug off injuries that would make mortal characters pass out. Some Heart Drives also have a built-in Healing Factor to help repair or even rebuild their body. At the extreme, they may consider all non-fatal damage trivial... the down side is it also creates a gigantic Weak Point for enemies to easily kill the character. That is, unless the character has the foresight to hide it beneath body armor.
One scary aspect of the Heart Drive is it can be a combination of Body Snatcher, The Symbiote and Artifact of Doom. If it grafts itself onto another animal/character/clone body, the Heart Drive will take over the mind and sometimes even "mutate" it into its original form.
Anime and Manga
- Desty Nova's brain chip in Battle Angel Alita. as it turns out he has a spare.
- Cell's core in Dragonball Z.
- Blood seals in Fullmetal Alchemist. The armor can be chopped to ribbons, but as long as the seal is undamaged, you're fine. But smudge it with a finger, and you're fucked. (How does it work in the rain? Why doesn't anyone put something on top of it?)
- The blood is bonded to the iron, so it's not so easy to destroy. But for something manages to get through the armor, you're looking at a rifle round or something, so why bother putting something in front of it?
- Also, the philosopher's stones themselves. A homunculus had its stone ripped out, disintegrated, and then reformed around it.
- In the Ghost in the Shell universe, thanks to the advances of cybernetics, the human brain has come to approach a Heart Drive: people with full body replacement can simply have their brains moved to a new cyborg body. This happens to Major Kusanagi in the original 1995 film and the first Stand Alone Complex series.
- It's also shown in the very first episode of the Stand Alone Complex how a person's brain can be stolen, and replaced with somebody elses, if that person isn't careful about basic security measures - in this case, a Minister swapping his brains with a Geisha-robot for a bit of drunken fun when there's a foreign spy about.
- Another example is the Guyver. If the suit's core is intact, its user can be ground to powder and the unit will simply regenerate him, conservation of matter be damned. But crack it, and the Guyver will actually eat you alive.
- The Akatsuki member Sasori in Naruto; this is how his "true form" never seems to physically age.
- The crystalline jewel organ version is used with Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion. And the Evas themselves, as shown in episode 19.
- Played straight in Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0: Unit 02's core is physically removed at one point while the Eva is in cryofreeze. It is implied in the original series that cores can be freely swapped between the production models. Unit 01 however, appears to have a partially overgrown non-removable core.
- The starseeds/sailor crystals in Sailor Moon.
- The Medals for the titular Medabots.
- Dai-Guard used Heart Drives in their giant monsters of the week.
- The giant robots in Bokurano remain operational as long as a white, bulbous construct located inside them remains intact. Later it's revealed that it's not the destruction of the core that ends the game, but the death of the human pilot inside it.
- In Big O, when Dorothy's memory circuits are removed, it's essentially an irreversible coma. Worse yet, even if the disc was retrieved, there's no one alive who can repair the drive. Fortunately, this turns out to be somewhat of a subversion. Dorothy is somehow able to start moving without it, prompting Beck to ask, "How can you function with no memory? Do you actually know who you are?
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the Magical Girls' "Soul Gems" are exactly that.
- Mod Souls in Bleach are actually small pills that contain souls. If you put them in a dead or soulless body (constructed body or one whose owner is missing), or even a humanoid stuffed toy, they come alive. No matter how much damage the body suffers, they can simply be put in another body and they'll be fine.
- Rampage in Project Horizons has an indestructible crystal inside that contains the personalities and/or souls of an unknown number of ponies, as well as Rampage's own personality. It enables her to survive anything, including disintegration.
- Brain In a Jar Cain in RoboCop 2 while he's in the "Robocop 2" body.
- Cherry 2000. Robots have their personality stored in a memory chip that can be removed and reinserted in another robot of the same type. The protagonist spends the entire movie trying to find a new body for his robot.
- In Frankenstein Conquers the World, its said that Frankenstein's heart is immortal and can regrow his body due partly to his creation and partly due to surviving and being mutated by one of the H-Bomb attacks on Japan. While his cells can grow into a new monster, his heart is the only part that seems able to regenerate into something human-like.
- Terminator units in The Terminator series have these. With exception of the T-1000, and possibly the very early model T-1s that seemed to lack any personality at all.
- In the live-action Inspector Gadget movie, Gadget is captured by the villain who proceeds to remove the computer chip that amplifies his emotions to allow his body to function, causing him to shut down. However, Gadget later summons enough Heroic Resolve to overcome this and reactivate himself.
- Wall-E's main processor chip could be defined as this, since he temporarily loses his personality when EVE gives him the life-saving overhaul near the end of the movie
- In Eragon, Dragons have Eldunari which is essentially their souls. A dragon can expel their Eldunari but remain in control of their bodies. When their bodies die their consciousness is transferred to the Eldunari, where it remains until someone destroys it.
- In the short story Learning To Be Me, everyone has a tiny neural network computer implanted into their brain. As the people grow, the computer constantly corrects itself to mimic their brain's responses. At a certain age, many people choose to remove their brains, making the tiny computer this trope.
- In the Dragoncrown War series, Big Bad Chytrine has a soulstone because she's half-dragon, and dragons can naturally create them. However, in order to protect it, she swallowed it, making it part of her being and rendering her nearly impossible to kill unless her dragon form is torn open and someone pulls it out.
- In Charles Stross's Saturn's Children most robots have a personality chip to backup their memories/personalities. This can be used to keep them alive by transferring their mind to another body or to learn from dead "siblings." "Wearing" the chip of another robot for too long however can lead to their personality usurping the original owner's and as a back up can take months or years to be fully complete destroying another robot's personality chip is a good way of ensuring they behave themselves.
- The "S-chips" in Stationery Voyagers count as this. They can be swapped numerous times amongst Mechanical Pencil bodies, allowing characters like Pextel to be "artificially reincarnated" several times. Comes in handy, as Pextel's first mechanical body is almost completely destroyed in the season one finale.
Live Action TV
- A variant occurs in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 when a criminal has his brain copied to a microchip, which he embeds into Dr. Bashir's skin. This allows him to take over Bashir's body.
- Cameron, like all other terminators, has one in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
- Adam in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- On Knight Rider, KITT's personality is contained in his CPU, which can be removed from the car. In one episode, when his CPU is removed from his car body by the villains, he's installed into a portable TV for safekeeping.
- Paranoia supplement Acute Paranoia, section "Playing Robots". In Alpha Complex a robot's brain (CPU) can be removed and inserted in another robot. One function of a Troubleshooter team's Robot Officer is to recover the CPUs of damaged robots.
- The Cruxis Crystals of the angels in Tales of Symphonia.
- Robots in Gunnerkrigg Court function this way. In particular, Robot S13's original body was melted down and made into paperclips; his CPU was preserved and placed in a new body, so he was fine.
- One of the more prominent examples would be the concepts of sparks in the Transformers' universe. Sparks are basically a combination of the bot's heart and soul, as they are dead without one, and when it is "extinguished", the spark goes to become one with the Matrix. Originally introduced in Beast Wars, this is possibly the most enduring part of the show's mythology, since it has appeared in every subsequent incarnation of Transformers, including the live-action movies.
- Before this was introduced, one mini-arc in the the comics had Optimus Prime's brain and soul backed up on a 5-inch floppy disk.
- In an episode of Futurama  Bender has his personality downloaded onto a floppy disk, which renders him "quiet, and helpful". However, in a season six episode  Bender discovers that he can't simply download to a different body in case his is destroyed, because he was built without a back-up unit. So if his body is destroyed, so is he. Though, being a robot, he's practically invincible, so he doesn't have too much to worry about.